The Beginnings of Christian Reform (1)

If it is true, as Berman believed,[1] that we are approaching the end of an era, then it is encumbent on Christians to begin to rethink their covenantal heritage. They must begin to offer an alternative to the present collapsing social order, and this alternative must be self-consciously judicial. Christians must become judicial revolutionaries, not simply defenders of the present legal order. If we remain on the deck of this sinking ship claiming that it is in principle conforming with biblical principles, we shall go down with it. Sticking with the status quo means sure death by drowning.[2]

It’s a challenge to come to the end of an era. But it’s more of a challenge to prepare for the next one, especially if you haven’t understood the mistakes your institution has been consistently making up till now.

Historically, the Church generally says, “What’s the problem?” It struggles to come to terms with its errors, bumbling along, looking for a brick wall to run into. Unless there is internal change that begins with debate, it will surely find that wall.

Re-evaluation before God and in subjection to His Word becomes critical. Institutions heading at full-speed for the cliff need to heed warning, or else face destruction. Commonly, institutions don’t change before the crisis comes. Israel rarely heeded God’s repeated warnings, killed His messengers, and then got wiped out in AD 70, in a judgment that Jesus had predicted would come (Luke 21:20-24).

When institutions get themselves into a mess, the leaders who got them there will rarely be those who can get them out. Why is this? Because the leaders themselves are a part of the problem. They cannot or will not see the writing on the wall. They may say, “Yes, we have some problems here, and we want to deal with those, over time. Be patient. Don’t rock the boat.”

Think of the Reformation. The Catholic Church had been tolerating theological and moral corruption within its ranks. When Luther posted his 95 theses, the Pope initially considered this German controversy a storm in a tea-cup. To change would mean that he had to change, and acknowledge that he had either done wrong, or permitted wrong to be done.

Did he want any of this? Of course not. So, the Church continued its downhill spiral, trying to ignore Luther’s accusations. They didn’t go away.

We have our points of corruption today.

With the expansion of government welfare programs, the churches have happily surrendered these obligations to the state. The pastors have been trained in a world in which the welfare state is considered legitimate, and the seminaries do not discuss this issue. There are no classes in theological seminaries to train pastors to beware of the welfare state. When the welfare state goes belly-up, who is going to provide the justification theologically that the church has an obligation to intervene in order to help people who have fallen into poverty?

I can assure you that these questions are not discussed in theological journals. They are not discussed in denominational magazines. They are not discussed in seminaries. There is no training for the leaders of the churches, who will be caught completely unprepared when the fiscal crises hit. We’ve already seen this in 2009. But it is going to get a lot worse, and it is going to last a lot longer. We know this much: influence flows to those who take responsibility.[3]

Crises are coming, and these will be painful. Let’s say there are 30 million single mothers in the United States. What happens when the government cheques stop? What happens when the police can’t cope with the number of break ins? What happens when…

All of this is going to be critical, yet a huge opportunity for Christian reform, and for the church to become relevant again. It will mean going back to the Ten Commandments, and Biblical law in general. It will mean massive challenges for church elders and deacons, trying to figure out how to stretch church monies to help needy people, in and out of the church. It will mean developing church policies, where there simply haven’t been any, for centuries.

Massive, painful challenges, with massive opportunities for Christians and churches to become relevant, responsible and ultimately influential.

Are you ready for that? I think it’s coming.



[1] Harold Berman, “Law and Revolution,” 1983.

[2] Gary North, “Authority and Dominion,” 2012, p.1637.

[3] Gary North, “When Washington’s Checks bounce, who will Pick up the Pieces?” 10/9/2013.

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